Two of his sons also emigrated and they first settled in Boston. But Sam Hirsch (the name was shortened by immigration officials) needed to move.
“My dad had a store on Hanover Street in Boston but didn’t have enough business there,” Larry Hirsch explained. “It was the height of the depression and he talked with a salesman who told him the two best places to go would be Dallas, Texas, or Westerly, Rhode Island. He decided to go to Westerly.”
The Hirsch family ties to Westerly became very strong and have lasted 75 years, first with Samuel and Ann, then their son, Larry Hirsch, and now Kevin Algiere, who is Larry’s godson.
Employees at Westerly Jewelry tend to start young, Larry recalls he started working at Westerly Jewelry when 12 years old, making boxes, with Kevin’s father. “My next job was collections. I would go and collect $1 from people – every house I stopped at, they would give me a cup of coffee, glass of wine – I’d be gone all day and collect $20.”
Kevin got his first job at Westerly Jewelry when he was 16. “I did stocking, cleaning and after I graduated from high school I attended the Jewelry Institute in Providence. There I learned designing, repairing, setting stones along with other technical aspects of goldsmithing,” Kevin said.
“I always had a passion for jewelry, the arts part of it, the designing,” Kevin said. “I used to get a charge out of it, there was never a doubt in my mind what I was going to do. I remember coming into the store when Larry’s father owned it.”
Westerly Jewelry was first located at 64 High Street, now a public parking lot next to Dylan’s. In 1975 they moved to their current location, 8 High St., after a fire.
Sam and Anne Hirsch operated the store until the mid-70s. Larry Hirsch, who had moved to Florida and was a practicing lawyer, returned to Rhode Island to help manage the store. Kevin stepped into the manager’s shoes in 1990, after the retirement of Joe Misto.
“Joe Misto was here before me,” Larry said. “He started (working at Westerly Jewelry) as a little kid in school, and in 1989 he ran for fire chief and won.”
In 1999, Larry retired and sold the business to Kevin. “He’s a very accomplished artisan,” Larry said of Kevin. “He’s been running this place very well, it’s like keeping it in the family.”
Kevin echoes the sentiment. “Larry’s been like a second father to me, he was the best man at my wedding.”
They extend that family feeling to employees and customers. “You could go through town and find 100 people or relatives of people who worked here,” Larry said. “We had a reunion last year, and we had about 20 people, and could have had many more.”
Kevin has continued the Hirsch’s tradition of personal service, high quality and beautiful jewelry and gems at Westerly Jewelry.
Kevin, as the on-site jeweler handles 99 percent of all jewelry repairs at the store and will clean your ring and check the setting at no charge. Kevin also handles walk-in services such as replacing watch batteries. Such personal service is a rarity, but is a priority at Westerly Jewelry.
“Our goal is to make your shopping experience as comfortable as possible,” noted Sherry Ornberg, Westerly Jewelry’s Graduate Gemologist, GIA and Registered Jeweler with the American Gem Society. Kevin and Sherry have a combined 70 years experience between the two of them.
“What makes Westerly Jewelry is we live here, our customers are our friends and we offer great service, high quality at a reasonable price,” Kevin noted.
Larry pointed out that only Washington Trust Bank has been in Westerly longer than Westerly Jewelry.
Part of that sense of community also comes from being an active member of the town. Kevin has been an active reserve police officer for 19 years, working down at the beach in the summers, covers free special events like the Pop’s Concert.
“It’s funny when people who know me from the store see me in uniform working down at the beach,” Kevin said. Kevin praised Westerly. “It’s a beautiful community, downtown Westerly is one of the prettiest downtowns in Rhode Island. When one store closes, another store always comes in, we keep up the buildings, it’s absolutely gorgeous here. It still has that warm, hometown community feel where people look out for one another.”